Silicon Valley Moves Into More Food

The Lempert Report
June 02, 2016

Of course we find a $700 machine that makes an 8-ounce glass of juice that has attracted over $120 million in venture capital to back the product from the likes of Google Ventures and Campbell Soup.

Doug Evans is a raw-food evangelist and trained as an Army paratrooper before joining a graphic design firm, and in 2006 started a juice store called Organic Avenue (which failed) and then founded Juicero, a juice-ordering app,  kitchen-counter appliance and a 111,000-square-foot food-processing factory here in Los Angeles. The appliance is a white plastic slab roughly the size of a food processor; you insert a pouch which cost $4 to $10 each depending on the flavor, and press a button. It goes to work and a couple of minutes later, a stream of liquid pours into your glass. Inside the machine is a series of gears and metal plates that exert 8,000 pounds of pressure on packs of chopped fruits and vegetables. A camera in the machine scans the QR code on each pack and, using Wi-Fi, checks in with an online database. Here’s how smart it is: if it finds the pack is no longer fresh, or has been deemed contaminated, the machine won’t press it.   

The flavors are unique: Sweet Roots (carrot, beet, orange, lemon and apple) and Spicy Greens (pineapple, romaine, celery, cucumber, spinach, parsley and jalapeño) are two examples. 

Sounds simple enough but he tells the NY Times that it involves a daunting mix of hardware, code and food processing which relies on a smartphone app, always-on Wi-Fi, QR codes, high-tech packaging and an army of workers slicing fruits and vegetables in very particular ways. 

More nutritious pressed juice is on trend. Starbucks acquired Evolution Fresh and Campbell Soup’s Bolthouse Farms is one of the hottest product lines in recent times. 

$700 is a lot for an appliance as is the price of each serving, even though the machine never needs cleaning due to its unique design. 

Keurig’s success was making the machines cheap and earning their money on the Kcups. Gillette gives away the razor to get you to buy their blades.  We can only hope that as Juicero builds its customer base that the price comes down and greed doesn’t destroy a great idea.